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Migrant Kiez

The historic boundaries established during Cold War, reinforced by the material structure of the Wall, have established simultaneously places of crossing and containment. Another layer of urban frontier emerged as migrants were involved in the city-making processes in Neukölln, recreating the neighborhood in accordance with their experiences, new requirements and found urban environment in Berlin. The analytic value of a symbolic spatial order lays in enhancing the visibility of the different interplays of the boundary making processes - old and new, official and cultural, natural (geographic) and constructed. This continual (inter)actions in the urban materiality and environment plays and important role in communities’ perception of what the place is like and who belongs there. I would like to emphasize the meaning of these boundaries and their dual function of division and crossing, creating the symbolic spatial order of the Neukölln-Nord, with a particular focus on the neighborhood between Karl-Marx-Straße and Sonnenallee. This will enable to understand the migrant place-making and Albanian everyday practice, defined by the mental division between East and West - derivative of the material divisions of Berlin in 1960s-1990s, transnational social spaces delineated by different ethnic communities, and the entrepreneurial environment with its historic background for Neukölln. The symbolic urban boundaries of Berlin, narrated as division, distance and differentiation, are historically emphasized by the recent history of the city divided by the wall and zones of influence of different political actors. If we look closely at the history of Neukölln (revoked in the first part of this paper), the social and cultural boundaries were followed by environmental divisions of Berlin, since beginning of 20th century. Neukölln, with its immigrant history of Bohemian community, and autonomy until 1920, has impacted on the urbanization of the south district of Berlin. It is also apparent that in the common narrative of Berliners, whose locale is central or north parts of the city, Neukölln is marked with distance (physical and mental), being stigmatized in the 1990s as the Bronx of Berlin. There are also other disparities, despite the fact that Neukölln was a part of West Berlin, which are economic and morphological. Its morphological disparities suggest connections between political, spatial and social forms of order. 

Lively and bustling streets of Neukölln (Karl-Marx-Strasse and Sonnenallee) appear as a center of the neighborhood, full of colorful shop windows, blinking neon signs, multitude of languages, dialects and loud music of different cultures and full of aromas carrying the locals with a memory of homeland. Both streets are busy and hectic at most times of the day, yet different communities, such as Albanians, find their lapse of the time, in a slow motion of commonness. When one stops by in one of the coffeeshops or bars with Albanian double-headed eagle exposed on the entrance logo or in the interior, there’s no hurry anymore. Albanian social sites are mixed with a immigrant neighborhood’s users, where conviviality and social contact are a part of everyday practice, dominated by Arab and Turkish shops, Little Albania finds its significant place in the migrant urbanization of the city, in Neukölln. Yet, symbolic borders appear, delineating smoothly neighborhood ethnic, and/or religious clusters between communities and daily users of the streetscape.